One of the Best Sandwiches, Ever


The photo on the left is courtesy SiFu Renka, who appropriately appears to contribute to the Taste TO website. The beef brisket sandwich pictured is not the one I ate, but is one which might be available somewhere in Toronto. I may have to make a special journey to check it out.

Just a note that we had a fairly uneventful trip back from Lincoln, Nebraska today, starting our long journey back home which should end on December 31. Tomorrow, most of the O’Connor clan and associated friends and relatives will be gathering for the big Christmas eat-a-thon, and I’m sure that I’ll be spending a lot of time lending my hands to the effort, and also keeping Vivian out of people’s hair.

I would like to mention that, on our way back, we stopped off at Walnut, Iowa, and returned to a restaurant called the Villager, located just north of the I-80 offramp and hidden behind one of those ubiquitous golden arches restaurants. The experience reaffirmed my desire, established after I watched the documentary Super Size Me, to take a chance once and a while, avoid those fast food chains when I’m out travelling, and try something independent and local.

The Villager is a locally owned restaurant outside of Walnut, Iowa — apparently a town specializing in antique shops — which is clearly popular with the locals. When Erin, Vivian and I entered, there was a gathering of old farmers straddling two tables, talking about the merits of the various Democratic candidates in the upcoming primaries. Country music was playing on the speakers and the decor was clean, though we were uncertain whether it had moved of its own accord from “dated” to “retro”.

We first visited this restaurant in July 2005, heading to Omaha to attend Wendy’s funeral. The local dish I tried was a beef brisket sandwich, which came as a third of a pound of juicy beef, chopped into hunks, smoked pink and served on a roll. It was an impressive sandwich, especially when combined with the barbecue sauce that was supplied.

Our visit today reaffirmed that assessment, and I’m told that the beef is specially prepared, with the cook getting up early in the morning to slow cook and smoke it in the best tradition. I urge anybody on I-80, heading for Omaha, to take a meal break at Walnut, Iowa, skip the golden arches and head for the Villager. The ambiance and the food are memorable, and the experience just feels a lot more authentic than anything a fast-food chain can offer.

Erin had a taco salad that she quite enjoyed and which Vivian was quite happy to share. The meat was flavourful and the vegetable accouterments were fresh and tasty, though Erin was jealous of my sandwich.

I’m no food critic — and given my weight, perhaps it’s just as well (note to Dan; it’s time to go back to the gym, now!). But I’m pleased that I can count some really special sandwiches among my life experience, that I can genuinely recommend to anybody looking for something to remember. These include the tongue sandwich at Moe Pancers’ Deli on Bathurst Street in Toronto (no, I’m serious, try the tongue!), the burnt-ends sandwich at Arthur Bryant’s in Kansas City and now the beef briskit at the Villager in Walnut, Iowa. I’m also quite enamoured by the Italian Beef sandwich of Chicago, though I’ve yet to find a restaurant that sells it that is considered the definitive source.

You have been warned. Regardless of your political stripe, you all should enjoy a good sandwich — unless your political stripe is vegan, of course, in which I can only say: oh, well.


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